Ruling Shakes Up Congressional Races, But No Immediate Effect At State Level

Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling will shake up the way Congressional races are funded this fall. But it’s not expected to immediately affect political races at the state level. The ruling overturns a federal ban on political spending by corporations.

The Supreme Court ruling lets companies spend money independently of a federal candidate, to support or to oppose that candidate’s campaign.

Drew Rollins runs the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. He says the ruling applies to Congress, but not elections under the state, like for governor, the legislature and city councils.

Rollins says that’s because Tennessee has a longstanding ban on corporate funds being used in campaigns.

“So in Tennessee corporations still can’t make campaign contributions to candidates. We’ve spoken to the attorney general’s office to determine if there would be any effect on the independent expenditures side, but they’re looking into that right now.”

Rollins says the Supreme Court decision could eventually echo in Tennessee if there’s a legal challenge to the state law, or if the legislature chose to change it under the new ruling.

And he says companies here can still buy what are called ‘issue ads,’ because they target specific issues, instead of candidates.

Nashville political consultant Bill Fletcher says the state law could eventually come under fire as well.

“It’s likely that on a state-by-state basis you’ll start to see attacks on limitations; there may be changes in how much an individual or a corporation can give, because all of that is subject to both state and federal law.”

Fletcher says those changes probably won’t come into play until after this fall’s election, because they’ll likely take awhile to work through the appeals system.

Others have suggested the state legislature could use Thursday’s Supreme Court decision as a basis to change the state law.

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